Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thank You & Nos Vemos

Many of my friends and family know how excited I was to study journalism at Utah State University. Three years after graduating I took what appeared to be a bit of a detour in my career path to do do community outreach, marketing and public relations for a non-profit called the National Ability Center.

While Megan and I were starting our family, I admit that I was looking for something that didn't have me working twelve hour work days, six days a week. I wouldn't have left television for any simple nine-to-five job. This place mattered. It was different. It was special. It was unique. And I felt I could make a difference working there.

The National Ability Center is one of the nation's largest providers of adaptive recreation. That means we help people with disabilities by getting them involved in activities that aren't available exclusively in rehab facilities or an OT or PT's office. We help thousands of people every year to find enjoyment in life. Whether they were born with a disability or came upon one later in life, we have something for them. Whether that disability is physical or cognitive, we have something for them. Whether a doctor has told someone they can or can't do something because of a disability, we have something for them. Last year we had something for people with more than 100 unique disabilities.

I have seen people do things in the last three years that I never thought possible. I can't tell their stories nearly as well as they can. Luckily, I don't have to try. Part of my job was to give them an outlet to share their successes. With the help of some very talented friends who I met at the NAC, we created a few video productions about how the NAC has helped people overcome the odds to find success and happiness in their personal and family lives.

I will say that nearly any of these individuals and families could be featured in a movie. I hope you'll bookmark this post. If you're ever having a bad day, these stories are likely to make you happier with what you have. They'll inspire you to help others. They'll make you appreciate the blessings you have received. Some of these individuals have won Paralympic medals, others have redefined how others with the same disability are treated. Some are happy just to be doing the things they want to even after doctors said they couldn't or wouldn't be able to. Each of them has helped make me a better person.

Teague Cowley lost a leg and an arm as a boy when his car was hit by a drunk driver. Joe Johnson was an Apache helicopter pilot who was left paralyzed on one half of his body because of a brain tumor. Claire Phippen was born with Porencephaly. Sarah Barber has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Their four stories are told, in part, in Discovered Abilities II.

Talan Skeels-Piggins shattered his spine and fractured his neck in a motorcycle accident. Ben Stephens has Arthrogryposis. Nicole Roundy's let was amputated because of bone cancer. Erik Bayindirli was paralyzed after a roll-over car accident at age 19. Greg Shaw has sacral agenesis. Each of these competitive athletes was featured in Discovered Abilities III, "Leaps & Bounds".

Allie Schneider has Spina Bifida (and a bad case of ihatederonwilliamsitis!) and has skied, cycled, ridden horses, driven a bobsled, climbed a ropes course, water skied and a million other things over the last 23 years. David Stott has Autism. While he may not understand it right now, his parents have made many sacrifices personally and professionally because of the progress he's made at the NAC. These two were featured in Discovered Abilities IV.

The highlight of my summers at the National Ability Center came with the last week of our Discovery Camps. Camp Xtreme is a week-long overnight camp for teens with physical disabilities. Last summer the camp was featured by the Deseret News by Amy Donaldson and Keith Johnson ( Rockstar AmeriCorps member Libby Falck put together a fun video about the week's adventures, as well.

The National Ability Center was started to help veterans of the Vietnam War learn how to ski after suffering injuries from land mine explosions and other unimaginable war experiences. With recent wars, we have been fortunate enough to host groups from the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). Some of the groups have included veterans working through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Others have been couples retreats to help couples after military service has ended. We also hosted one of the first retreat exclusively for female veterans ( Outside of our work with the WWP, we've also hosted groups like Team Semper Fi and the Community Based Warrior Transition Unit - Utah (

These three years have passed quickly. I hope the memories won't do the same. Tuesday will be my final day as an employee at the National Ability Center. I'm moving on to a new and exciting opportunity in April.

I owe a personal thank you to a lot of people, and a blog isn't the place for that. Saying, "Thanks, everyone!" just doesn't seem right. So I'm going to toss a few names out there of people who have made a difference in my life through the NAC. Thank you Teague, Meeche, Allie, Larry, Ben, Ben, Tim, Libby, Jenn, Jen, Marla, Michael, Mike, Scott, Ellen, Kristi, Rena, Tracy, Kristen, Kim, Abby, Jan, Rae, Kim, Jess, Dave, Dave, Dave, Rich, Shane, Jen, Sarah, Nate, Claire, Erik, Arly, Tomasz, Tom, Danelle, Rob, Stephani, Marcel, Talan, Nicole, Travis, Greg, Ben, Julie, Barb, Paula, Mauricia, Evan, Pelle, Joe, Sadie, Rena, Scott, Hans, Sally, Joy, Jack, Seamus, Alan, Heather, Brian, Ben, Jeff, Mark, Chris, Adena, Andrienne, Anna, Barb, Bob, Brett, Jeff, Brian, Erica, JC, Jim, Heidi, Jonathan, Kami, Laura, Lee, Lynanne, Pablo, Marylin, Sam, Meg, Michelle, Andy, Sally, Fred, Molly, Muffy, Jeff, Oz, Rick, Bayrd, Rip, Sue, Ryan, Stan, Tom, Mike, Dylan, Eric, Monte, Ralph, Miles, MaryLou, Jim, and Don. Did I get everyone? No. Like I said earlier, the NAC helps thousands of people each year. This list is barely the tip of the iceberg, but each name here has a story (or a few) that help me be a better man. For that, I truly am thankful to each of them.

If you know someone with a disability, get them up to Park City. Take a tour of the National Ability Center. Learn how the NAC is providing opportunities to discover abilities.

If you would like to learn more about what is going on at the NAC, "Like" it on Facebook at